Reforming WA Cares and supporting every student


It’s the third week of the legislative session and there’s a lot going on in the (virtual) halls of the Capitol. The House has already passed some important bills and legislation is quickly making its way through the committee process.

Check out my first video of the virtual session for an update on my bills to protect young people from hazing on college campuses and ban the open carry of weapons at city council, county council and school board meetings. I also highlight the need to clarify portions of the historic police accountability bills we passed last year and adjust the WA Cares Fund.

*Filming videos remotely instead of in person has been an adjustment. And speaking of adjustments, I’ll be sure to change up my camera angle for future videos.

WA Cares reforms mean no premiums for 18 months and new exemptions

Last week, we voted to pass needed reforms to the WA Cares Fund, the state’s long-term care benefit for seniors and people with disabilities. HB 1732 will extend the implementation period for WA Cares, meaning workers won’t pay the premium until the Legislature finishes its work to improve the benefit. And HB 1733 allows voluntary exemption for certain individuals, including military spouses and disabled veterans, non-immigrant visa workers, and border state workers who live outside the state and wouldn’t qualify for benefits.

Most families don’t have a plan for long-term care or any sort of insurance to protect them, resulting in spending down savings to qualify for Medicaid, relying on unpaid family members for basic needs or being put in a position where they’re forced to sell their homes so they can afford long-term care. WA Cares will allow individuals to hire in-home help or make needed changes in order to stay in their homes longer. These two bills are necessary reforms to make sure WA Cares is accessible, robust and available when you need it.

Bills supporting students, from mental health to internet access

This month is Whole Child Month, a time to recognize how important it is to support each and every student across our state, especially as the pandemic continues to take a toll on young people. Here’s some of the bills that have been introduced to do just that:

  • HB 1905: Ensures youth and young adults aren’t released into homelessness from foster care, juvenile rehabilitation or in-patient behavioral health treatment. My bill passed unanimously out of committee today. Hear more about this legislation on Capitol Ideas, the state House Democratic Caucus’ podcast. Tune in here!
  • HB 1890: Creates the framework for building a statewide plan to provide behavioral health services when and where children, youth and families need them.**
  • HB 1834: Allows students to take excused absences from school in order to take care of their mental health in the same way they would for their physical health.
  • HB 1723: Too many kids are struggling to access their online classes. The Digital Equity Act helps close the digital divide by increasing access to the internet for students and others.
  • HB 1659: Creates $1,000 “bridge grants” for low-income students and increases the amount of funding most students would receive from the Washington College Grant, our state’s largest financial aid program.
  • HB 1835: Makes it easier for students to fill out the FAFSA, Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and the WAFSA, Washington Application for State Financial Aid.

**Check out this Seattle Times story for more on the variety of policy approaches we’re taking to address youth mental health, including HB 1905.

Recognition for passing the landmark Fair Start for Kids Act

I’m incredibly honored to be named Washington STEM’s 2021 Legislator of the Year and receive the Washington State Women’s Commission’s inaugural Marian Wright Edelman Award for sponsoring the Fair Start for Kids Act last session to help families struggling with the high costs of child care. By making child care more affordable and accessible, this new law helps parents, especially moms, get back to work and our economy recover. Thank you to Washington STEM and the Women’s Commission for these awards.

Thanks for reading and to all those in our community who have testified or met with me on legislation this session! Also, I hope to see you at our virtual town hall next month. Stay tuned for more information about how you can join us and submit questions in advance.


Tana Senn